Monday, 29 October 2007

Demob happiness

Everything about today's commute went wrong. Trains from Portsmouth had been cancelled due to over-running engineering works. The train that eventually put in an appearance at Guildford was packed. I spent the next half an hour trying to read Harry Potter whilst not sitting on the rather put-out gentleman who seemed to think that just because he'd been on the train early enough to get a seat, that somehow entitled him to a premium amount of personal space. But anyhow, a most unpleasant journey it was. For once, I was heartily pleased to see Clapham Junction loom out of the mist. But the connecting train wasn't there. So I was late to work. Again. Coming home, my first train was late. I subsequently missed the connecting train. My second train seemed to get lost in the short shuffle from Waterloo to Clapham, turning up half an hour late, and I then missed the connection at Woking. I eventually got home two and a half hours after leaving work. It's a distance of 25 miles as the crow flies. That's an average speed of 10 miles an hour. Pitiful, isn't it?

For once, though, I didn't actually care. I was taking a perverse enjoyment in the lateness of the trains and the extreme rubbishness of the commute. You see, I've found somewhere to live that is within walking distance of work, and I'm moving this weekend. This means I have only eight more rubbish commutes (and five in which I need to complete Harry Potter prior to the Inaugural Meeting of the Inapub Bookclub on Thursday). I am enormously pleased. And, whilst it's hardly a pleasant walk, being a little over a mile along a traffic-choked main road, it will be wonderful after five months of commuting. In fact, I can't wait to move. I will have evenings again. I can set my alarm clock later than 7am. Later than 8am. If I'm having a bad day, later than 9am. And have heating. And, with a minute's walk to the river, it's entirely possible I can row again, as well*. In fact, I might even get to the stage of not actively loathing everything about London with the sort of passion only possible in someone who has been brought up with the unshakable conviction that it is right and proper to flee from the South East to Yorkshire in search of a better quality of life. I might even enjoy doing London things.

But it's possible that I might just the teensiest bit miss living in a crazy house in scary woodland with suspected axe-murdering pseudo midgets, a feline ginger sex-pest, a poorly toilet-trained siamese bully and a larceny-loving overgrown lap dog...


*Having checked my nearest rowing clubs, it turns out that the captain of the women's squad at the club a mile from the new pad is someone I used to row with in a former life. Rowing is a small, small world.

Saturday, 27 October 2007


Having rather unfortunately written my car off a few weeks ago in a misunderstanding with the laws of physics, I needed to indulge in a spot of car hunting. I was somewhat horrified to discover (upon having contorted my frame into a Fiesta which at first sight looked alright) that my long gangly arms do not fit sufficiently within the confines of the car to be able to turn the steering wheel, assuming that, like the rest of the population, I prefer to drive my car with the door closed. The sales lass, who I think may have been a bit new, unhelpfully suggested I leave the window permanently open to provide a bit of elbow room. Hello? This is the UK. It gets cold here. I drive long distances. I do not fancy zipping along the M1 at 2am with the window open in January. No thanks. Not being amenable to the adaptation suggestion, I therefore find myself in the position of having been designed out of owning one of the UK's most popular small cars. I feel something of an outcast, snubbed and ignored.

I was relating this in an idle and increasingly silly conversation with Stray the other day, in which I was complaining bitterly about having been disbarred from owning a popular car by virtue of being been well-fed and having a pair of (originally) tall parents and conditions conducive to growth, including plenty open space for me to "grow into". It occurred to me that perhaps had my parents taken measures to control my growth, for example, by stopping feeding me, or giving me some understanding that there were situations in which being a bit taller might be a disadvantage, I might be less gangly than I am today. There was some strand of logic to this, which if I recall rightly, goes as follows...

Goldfish in a tiny pond stay tiny. Given a bigger home, they turn into sharks, or grow a bit bigger, something like that. (I was never particularly good at biology.) This may also work with people. I grew up in Yorkshire, with plenty space at home and around the city. I got fed with the expectation of growing. I grew to be a decent, perhaps excessive size for a human, and could probably have made a half-capable coal miner. Stray, on the other hand, did most of her growing in an area which is noted rather more for the density of its population than for its vast tracts of open space. She is rather beautifully adapted for life in a metropolis, fits into public transport with no legroom issues, could squeeze into the spaces between commuters on the tube, and at a pinch, could probably slot into an overhead luggage rack. Open spaces appear larger, streets feel less claustrophobic, and yet she still has sufficient height to reach the oyster card readers. This all seems a bit too handy to be an accident. I wondered if there might actually be more to out respective adaptation to our environments. So perhaps if you don't get exposed to vast open spaces on a regular basis and have a calorific intake in keeping with the expectation of being small, you stay small. Perhaps Stray isn't a genetic mutant. Is it possible that she was Bonsai-ed through growing up in an overcrowded (read underspaced) city?

This might not be as ridiculous as it sounds. Take Japan, the home of Bonsai. Japan needs to Bonsai trees because it doesn't have enough space for proper trees such as giant redwoods, oaks, or even the humble beech. There's barely enough living space for its population (at least in the bits of the country geologically suitable for development), and consequently homes are compact (estate agent speak for small). This is the nation who came up with the concept of the capsule hotel, otherwise described as a chest of drawers in which people can sleep off the worst excesses of their night out without the wife finding out. They have lots of people, not much space, and the obvious answer to prevent stress from overcrowding is to make everyone smaller. Have you been to Japan? They have effectively Bonsai-ed the entire nation...

There's also evidence of the reverse effect. Think Scandinavia. Lots of space. Loads of herring protein. Not many people. The result? Tall people. Or, for a further example, Canada. Masses of open space. Plenty moose to eat. Big abodes. Massive, hulking people.

I think a sufficient case has been made for further study of this phenomenon to be justified, and am considering the uses to which this knowledge could be put. Following the rationale of my earlier post in which I made the case for a selective breeding programme to reduce the average size of a person, it occurs to me that we can take the next step and encourage the minaturisation of the selectively-bred short people by bonsai-ing them.

And for the rest of the weekend, I'm off house-hunting in the capital, where I shall no doubt find myself wishing to be rather smaller than I presently am. Mind, if moving to a gardenless shoebox means the turd of commuting is removed from my life (at least in its present changing-trains-at-Clapham-Junction form), and if the place comes with some form of heating, I'll be ecstatic.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

The Difference

In this case, the difference between Scientists and Normal People.

Yesterday I spent the day talking quality. That time of year had come when we needed to expose our records and documentation to the quality auditor (a very exciting man by the name of Bernard), and provide sufficient evidence that not only does our quality management system rock the big quality stick*, we actually follow the rules we created. As you can imagine, it was a high-adrenaline and fun-filled seven hours, culminating in the observation by the auditor that our system was good enough to beguile anyone*.

So one way or another, I had an excess of creativity needing an outlet. This usually manifests itself in idle and wandering thoughts. For example, it occurred to me that the reason Bounty bars (the chocolate-covered coconut confection) come in two pieces is probably that, were it a single item, the chocolate covering would be insufficient to support the weight of the crumbly coconut filling if a consumer chose to hold the bar by one end, with the bar oriented horizontally. What I had always supposed was just an arty design may well be a necessity given the thickness of the product's chocolate coating.

As a second example, inspired by my observation that whilst my nostrils point downwards, Ruby (the dog) is the owner of a fine nose with nostrils pointing forwards. I wondered whether this (front-facing nostrils) might be a better design. Were I designing a human from scratch, I think I'd probably put my chemical sensors on the back of my hands. The advantages of this design over the usual facial location are that:

  • It would be much easier than craning over items to get a good sniff;
  • On packed tubes and trains, you could just put your nostrils in your pockets, keeping them well away from stale armpits. This would be a vast improvement. One could go further and invest in pleasant-smelling items for pockets (e.g. herbs), such that tube journeys could potentially smell good. Either way, freeing up the nostrils to be rapidly relocated strikes me as a being A Good Thing.

Stray commented that it's not exactly normal behaviour to spend one's leisure time thinking about the material properties of popular confectionery and whether the design of successful products is optimal. I have a niggling concern that she may be right. Regardless, I was reminded of The Difference, one of my favourite cartoons from the genius at xkcd. Go have a look. Go on.

I was am a scientist. I identify with the need to repeat the experiment, to establish a pattern, and perhaps later to understand it. A single observation would never be enough for me. I would electrocute myself once more, and perhaps a third time for good measure. Not because I particularly enjoy inflicting pain on myself (despite my erging exploits, good description here, btw), just to check that the world does indeed react in a consistent manner to being 'prodded' in a particular way. And then I might try to repeat the experiment with/on an independent observer. Again, this is not because I particularly relish inflicting pain on others, far from it.

Having said that, were Bernard around, I might consider a special investigation into the effects of applying high voltage across auditors...

*These items are direct quotations from the day. Oh, we had fun...

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Simple Question

Which direction is she spinning in? (Click image for animated version...)

Answers on a postcard, please.

Image shamelessly borrowed from this article in The Herald Sun.

Thursday, 18 October 2007


I feel I am regressing. My routine here has been to:

  • Wake early;
  • Go to the gym;
  • Have a large breakfast;
  • Work;
  • Have a large lunch;
  • Work;
  • Eat fruit;
  • Go to the gym;
  • Work;
  • Have a large dinner;
  • Work;
  • Go to the bar;
  • Sleep.
Repeat cycle each week day.

It's just like being a student again... Well, OK, there may be a few minor differences. As a student I spent more time at the gym, or actually rowing on real water instead of beating a machine, spent less time at work, slightly more time playing cards with my neighbour, and usually managed to squeeze in a takeaway from Ahmed* between the bar and getting ample sleep. My conclusion is that even the perk parts of working for a living do not stand comparison with being a student.

Does anyone out there need a spare research student...?

*Ahmed was the purveyor of the finest kebabs in the city. All hail the Special Chips.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

A date with an erg

This is an erg*:

It's a standard bit of kit for rowers, used particularly heavily in winter months when insufficient daylight prevents us from getting out on the water and we need something else to approximiate rowing on. I have a love-hate relationship with these things. I have sweated on them. Set personal bests on them. Achieved on them. Recited the periodic table on them (forwards, backwards and both up and down groups), not because I'm a complete nerd, but because for some reason I was required to learn it for my university exams. I have worked off hangovers on them. Vomited on them. Blacked out on them. Replaced the pain of being dumped with the physical torture of them. Failed on them. I have collapsed off them, I have cursed them and I have feared them. Ergs have caused me much pain since my first acquaintance with them a decade ago.

Rowing on water, particularly in crew boats, demands attention to detail, a never-ending quest for the perfect stroke - a balletic interplay of balance, timing and the controlled application of explosive force. Erging, by contrast, has had much of the complexity designed out of the motion, particularly with the removal of the need for fine dynamic balance, and provides an almost perfect environment to unleash one's base and ugly competitive streak. In addition, rowing on water is subject to unpredictability borne of the whims of Nature, including flooding, strong currents, high winds, choppy waters. Erging provides reproducible conditions. A poor performance cannot be blamed on conditions. Illness notwithstanding, everything is within my own control. I may have been weak. I may have given in. I can't blame a poor performance on bad weather. And good performances are not down to luck.

I think you have to be a particular type of person to be seduced by the concept that you can be solely in control of your own performance. It suggests, perhaps requires, a level of arrogance that I would find unpalatable in others, but which I con myself into believing is a virtue. A mantra we bandied around a lot in college was "Pain is temporary. Disappointment lasts forever."** The subtext is that you make a choice to accept disappointment if you fail to choose sufficient pain.

What with commuting, I haven't erged recently. In fact, before Sunday, I think it may be a good five months since I applied myself to one of these monsters. But I have missed them terribly. I miss the sense of having actually worked for something***.

I was therefore rather delighted to discover four rowing machines in the gym here, but it was with some trepidation that I approached an erg on Sunday, recalling the sickness generally felt after a session. I did a pick drill to start off (standard rowing warm-up exercise and handy for re-establishing technique), a couple of minutes light rowing, then a power test - three strokes to build intensity then five strokes at maximum power and speed. Unsurprizingly, my maximum power was a bit lot lower than the last time I did one of these tests. And it seemed to take a lot more out of me, as well. Suddenly the concept of just doing half an hour on the erg seemed rather more daunting than it had a few minutes previously.

Instead, I did a 2km erg. My personal best is a respectable-ish 7:27. I managed 7:58. There are persons of pensionable age with better test scores than that. That 2km test erg hurt a lot. Discovering that I could barely beat a lady old enough to be my grandmother hurts rather more. Next time, I would do better, be in more pain, not be so weak. Dammit - it was this sort of resolution to improve that got me hooked on erging in the first place.

I did a half hour this evening. It hurt after five minutes. I found myself reciting the periodic table, as much to numb the boredom and block the pain as anything else. Or at least I tried to recite it, but discovered I could no longer do this****. But I did manage to "empty the tank", or thoroughly exhaust myself, so was roundly chuffed. It also made me feel entitled to indulge in the soft cheeses at dinner.

Anyway, I must get to bed. I need my beauty sleep in advance of a date with an erg tomorrow...


*An erg is actually a unit of energy. The machine is more correctly called an ergometer, but back in my student days, it was a waste of life to use four syllables when one would do the job.

**We had others, too. "Bleed through your eyes", "Feel your bones crack", "Nurture the pain", "A bit of pain never hurt anyone", and so on, but I feel a bit self-conscious shouting those ones to myself whilst erging.

***Don't get me wrong, I work. I have a job. I participate in meetings and wave my arms in a reasonably effective fashion. But I fail to accept that sitting on one's posterior for vast chunks of the day can be 'work'. I'm not sure what I would call it instead, but 'work' suggests some expenditure of energy is required, in the 'work is the integral of force with respect to displacement' definition.

****This resulted in my taking ten minutes earlier this evening to sketch the thing out on paper. I cannot recall six elements (rare earths, admittedly, but still something I should remember. I am disturbed (take that in what sense you will)).

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Back to school

As part of my ongoing education in matters consulting, for the next five days I am on a residential course learning about Managing Successful Programmes (sounds a barrel of laughs, doesn't it?). Exam-success-dependent, I shall end up as a Managing Successful Programmes Practitioner (MSPP - though I would have been keener to do the course if they made the acronym something like MSP-ACE (Accredited Consultant Expert), or STRAPLINE (STRAtegic Practitioner of Leading INstitutional Evolution), or CATWOMAN* (one for you to try at home...).

Acronyms** aside (which incidentally from my past experience seems to be the central plank of any programme, project or initiative (that's PPI to those in the know)), I'd be keen to find out what these successful programmes are. I've never worked on a successful programme. I'd like to, but it's unlikely ever to happen. Organisations, at least the public sector organisations I find myself working in, tend not to employ consultants when everything is hunky-dory, as we cost too much and if it ain't broken, the last thing on anyone's mind is to make a change. Or to do anything. At all. On the other hand, if it's broken, call in the consultants, pay them for a while and then wind down the programme and Hey-Presto, we have a scapegoat. It's all part of the service.

So, having established that I'm never likely to see a programme which is successful, I'd better learn how to make unsuccessful programmes less broken. So, I'd actually like to be on a course that teaches me how to fix underperforming programmes. But I'm 'Here' now, so I'll get on with whatever's on the agenda.


'Here' is a Grade II listed manor house in Oxfordshire. The building is, from the outside, rather lovely. Having got as far as inside, I am now rather disturbed. One of my first observations was that I had to pass an initiative test just to find the (unsigned) reception. My second observation was that the reception appeared to be staffed by a giant genetic hybrid - half gnome, half squirrel. It made the process of checking in not quite as smooth as I would have liked.

'Here' has rather dated decor. The stuffed deer hanging precariously from a wall is a little out of keeping with current social tastes. However, in perfect keeping with the deer is that which passes for the bar, and which is lovingly entitled "The Gun Room". The main house is overwhelmed by dark, wooden interiors, and it parades that reassuringly authentic though rather offputting musty smell. Air conditioning has obviously not made it as far as 'Here'. And I'm convinced I'll stumble across a stuffed tiger at some point...

And then there was dinner. My starter, the Pink Duck Salad with Orange and Spinach did contain exactly that. And also croutons, which were fine. And chunks of parmesan, which was less so. However, it was the sweet chilli sauce which really killed it. The fish course appeared to have missed the attentions of the fillet knife. I spent most of the time trying to discreetly remove bits of haddock skeleton from between my teeth. I've found in the past that this is rarely the best way to ingratiate oneself with new acquaintances.

The steak, well... There's well done, there's medium, there's rare, there's raw, there's still chewing the cud, and then there's so rare I'm unsure whether its actually been born. I have a slight suspicion I may have been served up an uncooked bovine fetus. In an extremely uncharacteristic act of food squeamishness, I didn't eat very much of the 'steak'.

Dessert was to die for... I mean, it was good. Properly good. Rum-truffle-chocolate-mousse-with-gooey-lovely-clotted-cream-sort-of-good. Yum.

After dessert, I'm willing to recommend this place to anyone, provided they have no sense of smell and don't find infanticide on a plate too offputting... Now I'm off to discover the gym facilities. I may be some time in working off the chocolate mousse...

*Catwoman is on the mind at the moment. I have a half-colleague (same programme, different employers) who keeps suggesting I turn up to work in a Catwoman costume. I don't have a problem with this, as we both see it as a bit of a laugh, but following a conversation with another half-colleague who overheard, it seems that others find it unacceptable. Is it me - should this be a problem? Or are some people just desperate to stab this guy in the back and get him done for sexual harrassment??

**I wrote a paper a few months ago and had been careful to follow the rather precise house style of the organisation I was working in. Amongst other things, this included a requirement to write each acronym in full on the first appearance in the text, to include it in the table of acronyms and abbreviations and to use the acronym form on all subsequent occurrences. Having taken great pains to do this, I appeared to exasperate a reviewer (an employee of said organisation), who was no doubt very familiar with the house style. Following my introduction of "...the Transition Environmental Map (TEM)", she had written, "Why does everything need a TLA?" Not having previously come across the use of TLA in this organisation, I checked the corporate dictionary, glossary, acronym list and searched for other occurrences on the intranet. It didn't appear anywhere. It was only several days later that I recalled a previous use of TLA as the acronym for "Three Letter Acronym". The irony...

Perhaps they're smarter than they first appear...

I took the trouble to watch the pigeons at Clapham Junction*.

I pitched up at about half-nine on Friday morning. I had just missed my connecting train, and were it not for the pigeons, the platform would have been empty.

The two pigeons were having a rather pleasant time, it seemed - scratching around for bits of flaky pastry from croissants, sausage rolls, pain au chocolate... all standard commuting breakfast items. They had plenty to be getting on with, cleaning up after the rush-hour commuters. And to keep them healthy, the occasional kind-hearted commuter had thrown them an apple core. As people oozed out of the footbridge and underpass onto the platform, the pigeons contentedly waddled further towards the edges of the platform, eventually heading beyond the barriers which prevent the commuters from straying into any regions for which they have no need of entry, keeping the pigeons safe from the feet of the otherwise absorbed commuters.

At some point, the density of commuters on the platform got too much for the pigeons and they sought refuge from the heaving masses by perching above them on the roof joists. This was the point at which I became rather jealous of the pigeons. Not only do commuters bring them tasty morsels every morning and evening (and, I presume, throughout the day as well), they also present them with fairly static targets on which to crap from a great height.

Yes, I think life would be pretty good as a Clapham Junction Pigeon. They have a choice of nine platform roof structures to fly between if they need a change of scenery or bit of exercise, and with at least 120 trains an hour and associated commuters, they should get a different course served up twice a minute. All of this and the luxury of a roof over their heads. And, of course, they almost certainly indulge in a bit of schadenfreude. At 7am, they stare down at the bleary-eyed Mr Jones on his way to ten hours in a god-forsaken office, eyeing up the coffee and pastry he bought for a fiver, the discarded remnants of which they will lay claim to once the train has collected its cargo. At 6pm**, Mr Jones returns with a coffee and the sandwich he bought for lunch but didn't get time to eat to feed the pigeons once more and provide them with something to aim at when all that food gets too much for them to contain.

I, meanwhile, follow Mr Jones onto the train heading for the office and wonder whether, perhaps, maybe, it could be ventured to suggest that the pigeons are having a pretty good time at our not inconsiderable expense...?


*For those of you who have never had the pleasure, Clapham Junction is Britain's busiest railway station. Wikipedia tells me that there are about 125 trains an hour passing through the station at off-peak times, distributed between 16 platforms (numbered 2 to 17).

**Bearing in mind it takes Mr Jones half an hour to get to work from this point and the same time on the return journey.

Thursday, 11 October 2007


Trousers has for some time been Bloggen ein totes Pferd. I hadn't fully appreciated the depths of blogging despair which the gentle Trousers had seen fit to plumb, until he used valuable space on his equine-scented blog to present me with an award. I am now officially a maker of smiles. Fancy that: me - a jack-of-all-trades public sector parasite consultant, making people smile. Well, I never! I'm pleased to be able to make someone, somewhere smile.

It seems that it is obligatory to make a speech, so mine is below. Please note that to fulfil the conditions of the award, I am wearing a posh frock as I write, on stage and blubbing uncontrollably.

OK, so I've cheated a bit. Instead of delivering a speech of flowing prose, I thought I'd make a list. Hence, I present all the things which I can recall have made me smile today:
  1. The scent of the lillies on the air when I got up this morning;
  2. The cobwebs heavy with raindrops which spanned the railings alongside the footpath to the station;
  3. The near perfect timing of the walk to the station to have just sufficient time to buy a ticket and jog to the platform before the train arrived;
  4. The wonderful turns of phrase in the book I'm currently reading;
  5. The scones in the canteen being warm and making an excellent and tasty substitute breakfast;
  6. My opinion seriously counting at work;
  7. The fantastically terrible pink tie sported by a colleague;
  8. Having an idea which was valued by the same colleague (for whom I have a great deal of professional respect);
  9. My opinion counting again at work (twice in one day - this is a record for this programme);
  10. Arriving home to find a meal ready and waiting;
  11. This post.

So, no prizes for guessing that the prize for making me smile goes to Casdok.


P.S. Discovery of the day: Stray appeared to be trying to excavate her ear, complaining of a painful pimple located deep inside the vessel. Having previously suffered a similar affliction myself, I was of course full of sympathy, and helpfully suggested that cutting the ear off would probably be the most effective way of relieving the pain. Could this be the reason for Van Gogh's self-amputation?

Monday, 8 October 2007

Trying times

The woman sat next to me on the tube this evening was apparently enjoying some amazingly potent cheese and onion flavoured chewing gum. The assault on my olfactory sensors was made all the worse by her inability to keep her mouth closed whilst chewing. The otherwise short journey to Wimbledon has never seemed so arduous...

Saturday, 6 October 2007

All the lovely gifts...

After writing off my car last weekend, I have received:

  • One week off work;
  • A tub of Extremely Chocolatey mini chocolate roll things;
  • A box of Fair Trade filter coffee things;
  • Two tins of posh soup;
  • Some rather nice and posh toffee chocolate biscuits;
  • Two boxes of oaty, fruity things masquerading as biscuits;
  • A box of chocolates;
  • A free lunch;
  • Lots of lovely hugs and kisses;
  • Loads of offers of "Anything I can do...";
  • A beautiful bouquet of lilies.

And they're hugely, hugely appreciated.

Newly discovered...

Without further ado, my discoveries of the week:

  1. When a motorcyclist appears out of the blue to headbutt your windscreen at high velocity, it really is very much like it looks on the advert*;
  2. Even under conditions of shock, my concerns are attuned primarily to ensuring the laws of physics have been maintained rather than ensuring the well-being of my fellow homo sapiens. Rather worryingly, after the collision, my first thoughts were along the lines of "It looks like a motorcyclist has just wrapped himself around my car... and disappeared. How on earth did that happen?" rather than something along the lines of "I wonder whether that chap is badly hurt?";
  3. When a young and spotty estate agent turns up late to a viewing, then leaves me to wander around in the rain whilst he shows the property to the other interested parties (who also showed up half an hour late) and does not see fit to apologise, I become disproportionately incensed by people who can't keep appointments and don't see fit to give you the courtesy of a call to let you know they'll be late;
  4. Estate agents are quite possibly a separate species from the rest of us (but refer to Point 8);
  5. If you put a hundred people and a room and make them dance for two hours, the room becomes very hot and sweaty and rather unpleasant. This is particularly true after 9pm when the doors of the facility have to remain closed to prevent any wayward strains reaching the delicate ears of the local residents;
  6. Some of my colleagues really do care about my well-being;
  7. Cops are really rather good at doing an interesting mix of practicality and understanding - a cop friend making a home visit brought me biscuits, chocolate, and alcohol to cheer me up after writing off my car in afore-mentioned motorcycle incident and, because she'd been warned my house had no heating, also brought two tins of soup in case I needed something hot and warming. Awwwww....;
  8. Used car sales types share only 70% of their DNA with the rest of humanity. The rest of it appears to be common to woodlice, snakes, and other things that shelter under stones;
  9. Power steering and central locking is all rather nice, isn't it?

Next week I hope to discover many less shocking, incensing and expensive things...

*No motorcyclists were seriously harmed in the making of this post